As Williamsville East High School’s Rachel Steffan waited to hear how the next year of her life might play out, apprehension was more a reflex than anything else. With Division I colleges and universities knocking on her door, Steffan was mulling over where to go. She was looking for the right fit on the field and in the classroom.
As she visited many places over her recruitment, one university in particular stood out. A small quaint Catholic university kept standing out to her. Fordham University in New York City seemed to have everything that Steffan has been looking for.
The only Jesuit university in NYC, Fordham, with an enrollment of 15,000, has a great academic program to go along with a solid athletics program. The Rams have one six of the last seven Atlantic 10 titles in soft ball, and they don’t seem like they will be slowing down anytime soon.
When Steffan stepped on campus, she envisioned herself helping her new teammates reach even loftier goals that before, while earning a degree from one of the oldest Catholic universities in the Northeast.
“I was drawn to Fordham by a few things. The campus is beautiful and they're known for being a strong academic school,” stated Steffan. “The softball coaching staff was amazing. In addition, their softball program has had a winning tradition as they have won six of the last seven Atlantic 10 Championships. This year their schedule includes UCLA and Alabama and it's really exciting to be playing in that kind of a program.”
Steffan is used to playing for winner. She has been part of a consistent winner while playing both softball and volleyball for Williamsville East High School. The softball team has been a perennial power, and this past year lost 1-0 in the state finals.
It was a magical ride for a club that came together at the right time. The team is a start-studded one that features a few other Division I and II players.
“I love playing for Williamsville East. Coach Durr really pushes us to be the best we can be. Our team has some amazing players returning this year,” stated Steffan. “The past two years we've been pretty successful, although it was tough to lose 1-0 in the state finals. This year we have a new turf field and I can't wait to get started on our road back to states.”
As Steffan gets back to work for another season, she knows what it takes to be a star in the making, Everything she has accomplished so far doesn’t mean anything to her when it comes to the 2018 season. If she needs a reminder she can always turn for some help in her own family.
Steffan is just one of three that have the athletic gene in the family. Her two brothers also knows what it takes to be successful on the field and in the classroom. Her brother, Mike, was a standout on the diamond and on the ice.
His Williamsville East teams won state titles in hockey but could never get over the hump in baseball. Now he will apply his trade at Canisius College, as he chose to stay local.
“Actually both of my brothers have always been amazing athletes. With them both shooting pucks at me since when I was 3 years old, I really didn't have a choice but to get into sports,” stated Steffan. “Mike and I always practice together and shag each other's fly balls. Both of my brothers understand how it feels to win and lose in sports and the pressure you sometimes feel. It's great to have them as my support system.”
It’s always nice to have that person to lean on. It’s also nice to have a sibling rivalry at times. With all three playing sports in the house, it’s easy to see who the best athlete was, or is. Or is it? I’m sure if you ask her brothers they will say they are the better athletes.
But, Steffan has a different take.
“The three of us are pretty competitive when it comes to sports,” said Steffan with a laugh. “But my dad likes to say I'm the real athlete in the family.”
Her athletic traits don’t just translate to the diamond, either. Steffan is a very accomplished volleyball player, and could have easily gone Division I in that sport as well. There is something about volleyball that draws her to court.
Maybe it’s the fact she gets to unleash some pain on the opposition when she can spike the ball for the winning point. In fact, her skills are so good, she had a couple of colleges come calling asking her to play both sports.
“I would love to continue playing volleyball. There is no better feeling than killing a ball to the floor and it's going to be hard to give up,” stated Steffan. “I actually had a couple schools interested in me saying that I could play both in college.”
It’s softball that she choose to focus on and her future gets clearer. During the National Signing period, Steffan made it clear when she chose Fordham that day. That day was a big day in her life. When pen hit the paper Steffan knew she needed to get back to work.
She needed to get to work for her teammates at Williamsville East and she needed to get better to prove to Fordham that they made the right the choices. Steffan doesn’t want to be an innocent bi-standard when she steps on the Fordham campus.
She wants to prove that she belongs. The only way to do that is by working and getting better every day.
“I have been working out to get stronger so that I'm ready to play with older girls. This winter I stopped playing travel volleyball so I have time to really put more focus on softball,” stated Steffan. “Actually, I think I'm coach-able as I aspire to get better at the game I love. I've always played a bunch of sports growing up and it has helped me to become an all-around athlete.”
The apprehension Rachel Steffan may have had before she signed her letter to play at Fordham is no longer. It has turned to joy and appreciation for all she has accomplished so far.